(Reuters) - After years of difficult negotiations, the U.N. General Assembly voted on Friday to set up a body that will seek to improve the situation of women and girls around the world. The new body will be known officially as the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, although officials say it will be referred to as U.N. Women (www.unwomen.org). It will consolidate four separate U.N. divisions now dealing with women's and gender issues.
"U.N. Women will significantly boost U.N. efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
U.N. diplomats said four years of negotiations between Western developed nations and developing countries, many of them states where women are often discriminated against, had been tough because of varying views on women's rights and gender equality.
A new post of under-secretary-general will created to head U.N. Women, with diplomats saying privately that former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is one of the top candidates.
Ban said he was inviting suggestions for candidates from member states and non-governmental organizations.
U.N. Women will focus on supporting inter-government bodies like the Commission on the Status of Women and ensuring that all United Nations agencies and organizations live up to their commitments to gender equality, the U.N. said in a statement.
U.N. Women will become operational on January 1, 2011.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by John O'Callaghan)